Joy of Christmas Book Tag

Joy of Christmas Book Tag

Another Christmas tag! Woohoo! I saw this one over at KarisBooks.


Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release are you most anticipating?

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The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi sounds really interesting and is set to come out in 2019.

Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author’s praises can you not help but sing?

Nicholas Sparks was the first person that came to mind. The man is a literary powerhouse, cranking out bestseller after bestseller, and every book of his I’ve read was moving and extremely entertaining! Plus, his books are all set in NC which is pretty neat for me, being an NC native and all.

Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

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I’m taking the easy way out here and siding with Karis, definitely Harry Potter. Since Harry Potter is kind of unbeatable when it comes to world building (and let’s face it – pretty much anything else) I’ll give a backup and say the All Soul’s Trilogy.

A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read

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There are a lot of classics I still want to read! Murder on the Orient Express, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Jane Eyre are at the top of the list.

Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas?

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Whiskey in a Teacup is one of the many books I’d love to get for Christmas this year.

Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

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A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews was the most recent to give me the warm fuzzies. I loved it!

Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

I could easily pick A Holiday by Gaslight for this one again, but another cover that’s recently caught my attention is The Gallery. SO. PRETTY.

Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas and/or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I love everything about Christmas. From the gift giving (and getting) to wrapping gifts to trimming  the tree to the special movies and music, it’s all amazing!


What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?

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Beat The Backlist 2019!

For quite a few months now I’ve been thinking about the bookish resolutions I’d make for 2019 – the biggest of which is reading the books that are actually on my shelves. When I started coming across Beat the Backlist posts a few days ago I knew it was the perfect solution!

As of right now, I currently own 387 books that I haven’t read.

Yes, you read that right. 387. I know, it’s ridiculous. With only a few exceptions, I won’t be buying any books for the better part of 2019 or checking any out from the library or requesting any ARCs. I’m ready to get through what I already own.

I’ve broken the books I want to read down into 3 categories, listed below.


Arcs:

  1. The Wartime Sisters – Lynda Cohen Loigman
  2. A Woman of War – Mandy Robotham

On My Shelf – First Time Reads:

3.  Reflection – Elizabeth Lim
4. Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green
6. Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
7. Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
8. The Wrath and the Dawn – Renée Ahdied
9. The Rose and the Dagger – Renée Ahdied
10. The Ring and the Crown – Melissa de la Cruz
11. Two by Two – Nicholas Sparks
12. Every Breath – Nicholas Sparks
13. Gunslinger Girl – Lyndsay Ely
14. A Frozen Heart – Elizabeth Rudnick
15. Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys
16. Blackhearts – Nicole Castroman
17. Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
18. Witches – Stacy Schiff
19. And I Darken – Kiersten White
20. Love Story – Karen Kingsbury
21. Cherry Harvest – Lucy Sanna
22. Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
23. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virture – Mackenzi Lee
24. A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin
25. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

On My Shelf – Rereads

25. Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
26. Front Lines – Michael Grant
27. A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin


It’s already a long list, but there’ll definitely be some additions. Quite a few of the books listed have sequels that I’m sure I’ll pick up if I like the first book, and I know I’m going to get at least a couple books for Christmas and they’ll get added to the list too (once I’ve opened them and know what they are!)

It’ll be a miracle if I can get through the whole list since I’ll be a full time graduate student for part of the year and writing my second – and hopefully third – book on top of that.

You can keep up with my progress and any changes to the list here.


I’m going to compete in the Hogwarts House Mini Challenge too, supporting Gryffindor!


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Are you participating in Beat the Backlist 2019?

The ABC Book Challenge – M

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Read:

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a really well-known contemporary romance. It seems like this is a really polarizing book, but I was one of the people that loved it, even the ending.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is a YA contemporary romance revolving around two families living side by side, one larger than life and the other tightly wound. This was Fitzpatrick’s first book and I’ve read a few others since then and liked them all.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli is actually the only Jerry Spinelli book I’ve read. It’s about an orphan struggling to survive WWII and, like quite a few others in this challenge, a short book with a lot of meaning.


To be read:

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Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero / The Midnight Watch by David Dyer / My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Dashing Through The Snow Book Tag

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Christmas is by far my favorite time of year (if you couldn’t tell already), and I’m READY for all the holiday themed posts. Bring ’em on! I saw this post at Dee Reads Things.


1. Name a book you would like to see under your Christmas tree

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For the last three years my parents have gotten me the latest illustrated Harry Potter book, but Goblet of Fire isn’t coming out until next year. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi has been on my to-buy list for foreverrrrr and Barnes and Noble had signed copies on Black Friday, so fingers crossed it’ll be under my tree!

2. A book you’ll be reading during the Christmas Season

I’ve already read two Christmas books this year (reviews here and here), but I plan on picking up at least two more: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge by Charlie Lovett and Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

3. Favourite Christmas Movie

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If I absolutely had to pick favorites, I would go for the animated A Christmas Carol, White Christmas, and the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I like pretty much any Christmas movie that crosses my path though, especially the old claymations and the occasional cheesy Hallmark movie (I just watched A Christmas Prince on Netflix! So. Good.).

4. Do you like snow?

YES. A thousand times yes. I love the snow and any other form of winter weather with all my heart. I know there are plenty of people mocking me from the other side of the computer screen right now, but snow is a novelty in North Carolina and I’ll take every flake I can get.

5. Name a character you you would like to spend your Christmas day with

To pick from a book I read this year (and avoid a Harry Potter answer), probably Matthew Clairmont from the All Soul’s Trilogy.

6. To give or to receive?

The older I get the more I like to give gifts. It’s so fun to pick out (or in my case – make) something special for someone and watch them open it! The anticipation is worse than waiting for your own gifts!

7. What fictional place would you like to spend Christmas at?

I try so hard to avoid Harry Potter answers when I do book tags because I don’t want to take the easy way out, but I gotta go with the Weasely’s Burrow on this one.

8. Fondest Christmas memory?

All of my Christmas memories are fond! It’s by far my favorite time of the year.

9. Can you say Christmas tree ten times FAST  in a row (pronouncing it correctly!)

Yes!


Do you like snow? Is there already snow where you live?

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The ABC Book Challenge – L

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Read:

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I couldn’t narrow it down to just 3 books for the letter L! I love all of these!

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks is a touching story about redemption and the power of love (not just romantically, either). I was hooked from the first page. It’s one of his best books in my opinion, along with The Longest Ride.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a book that needs no introduction. It’s super popular and up in the ranks with Harry Potter, Twilight, and the like. I finally reread the first three books in this series and read the last two for the first time and LOVED them.

Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke is the first in a long book series set in the pioneer west. Janette Oke was, excuse the pun, a pioneer in the genre and is definitely one of my favorite authors. Instead of following the main characters of the first book for the whole series, Oke goes down the generations.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks is a book that follows two sets of characters, one in the 1940’s up and one in the present day. I loved the way that the stories were woven together and loved both sets of characters.

Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North is an incredibly creative retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It’s set in post-WWII South Carolina and is everything you could want in a classic retelling. I loved it.


To be read:

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The Librarian’s Vampire Assistant by Mimi Jean / Lost Boy by Christina Henry / The Lioness of Morocco by Julia Drosten

The Writer’s Guide to Victorian Christmas Traditions

The Writer's Guide to Victorian Christmas Traditions

*Disclaimer: This focuses on American Christmas practices, and is meant to be a brief overview!*

The Victorian time period spans a massive 64 years. Beginning in 1837 with Queen Victoria’s crowing and ending in 1901 with her death, the era encompasses a wide range of American history (like the Industrial Revolution, gold rushes, westward expansion, Civil War, and Reconstruction, just to name a few), and accounts for a period of immense change for American citizens.

One of those changes can be found in the way that American’s began to celebrate Christmas. For the first time American’s – and Brits, for that matter – were engaging in universal Christmas customs. By participating in collective practices traditions were established and a ‘Christmas culture’ took root on American soil. Today, the influence of the Victorian era permeates nearly every Christmas tradition we have – from putting up the tree and trimming it with ornaments and skirts to Santa Claus and caroling, there are ties to the 1800’s.

The Beginning of the American Christmas

Although Christmas is a cultural phenomenon today, it was not always celebrated. Puritans and Quakers both denounced the holiday, and early settlers were frowned upon for taking the day to relax, rest, or play. Historically, Christmas (along with many other currently celebrated holidays, such as Halloween) was considered a Pagan holiday. Birthday celebrations were Pagan as well, and since Christmas was considered a celebrations of Jesus Christ’s birthday, it was met with disapproval. Not knowing exactly when Jesus’s birthday actually was only added to the stern demeanor of many religious groups in regard to Christmas. In “Christmas in America” Penne L. Restad notes, “It fell to Puritan reformers to put a stop to the unholy merriment…The Bible, they held, expressly commanded keeping only the Sabbath. In taking offence against Christmas-keeping, Puritans distributed colorful diatribes against the excesses of the holiday.”

As immigrants from a myriad of countries began to pour into the United States, Christmas celebrations slowly became more acceptable. By the beginning of the Victorian time period Christmas had become firmly rooted in American culture, but it was celebrated much differently than it is today. Decorations, meals, and gifts exchanged on the day largely depended on a family’s geographic location and culture.

Christmas Trees

German immigrants, from whom we borrow many of our traditions, were the most closely aligned to what Christmas would become. Cutting and decorating a Christmas tree was an immensely popular tradition in Germany, and German immigrants maintained the tradition in America as early as the mid-1700’s. Christmas trees were largely unwelcome to Americans, however, until the late 1840’s as they were considered Pagan symbols and a deviation from a purer holiday celebration.

Several factors contributed to the rise of Christmas trees in America. German immigration to the United States and American travelers visiting Germany on European tours laid the foundation for tree trimming traditions. German immigrants maintained their Christmas customs after arriving in America by cutting and trimming evergreen trees. Grandiose Christmas parties were well-liked opportunities for the upper classes to socialize, and many wealthy families with German lineage surprised their guests, much as a child would be surprised on Christmas day, by flinging open the parlor or drawing room doors to reveal an elaborately decorated tree. Impressed by the beauty and elegance of a decorated tree, and intrigued by the idea of surprising their children, families of many different cultural backgrounds began to trim trees in their drawing room. Parents and older children would work late into the night on Christmas Eve to ensure that younger children were gleefully surprised by what they found in the morning.

The Christmas Tree custom was solidified by the royal family – specifically Prince Albert. Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree to the palace, and a picture of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children standing around the Christmas tree was sketched and distributed in England. The same picture soon made its way to the United States, but royal indicators like crowns and medals were removed to give the print a more American feel. In addition, Godey’s Lady’s Book, a wide read magazine in the period, published extensive instruction on how to decorate a tree, whether it was a tabletop evergreen, tabletop feather tree, or full size evergreen. The combination of these factors earned Christmas trees a permanent spot in American Christmas customs by 1850.

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Lighting the Tree

The decorations that went on the tree were just as important, if not more important, than the tree itself. As soon as Christmas trees became a part of mainstream Christmas culture, so did Christmas tree trimmings. Although one might not associate a historical Christmas with capitalism and industry, tree trimmings were an integral part of both. The British Industrial Revolution, in full swing by the time that Queen Victoria was crowned, allowed Christmas decorations to be massed produced. Shortly after, the American industrial revolution caught up, and America began to mass produce Christmas decorations as well.

Christmas lights for trees started the same way that all lights did – as candles. The wealthier a family was, the more candles they could afford to put on their tree. The picture of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children around a Christmas tree that jump started the American tradition of Christmas trees features glowing candles on each branch. Due to the dangerous nature of an open flame on a dried tree, candles were typically lit only twice, once on Christmas Day and once on New Year’s Day. Even then, the candles were usually lit for only a short period of time before being extinguished.

Candles dripped wax as they burned, leading to the invention of another popular Christmas item: the tree skirt. Tree skirts were initially created to catch the dripping wax and prevent damage to flooring. Now tree skirts are used purely for decoration and serve as a reminder of Christmas’s past.

By the latter half of the Victorian era electric lights had been invented for Christmas trees. Surprisingly, the same distrust that a modern Christmas decorator would place on candles was given to electric lights. Families that were well used to dealing with the dangerous nature of candles felt that electric lights would be the bigger gamble. In addition, electric lights were incredibly expensive and well out of budget for all except the upper class.

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Ornaments

Another mass-produced spectrum of tree trimming was ornaments. For most Christmas trees scrap ornaments and popcorn strings were common adornments. Decorations would be made from bits and pieces of leftover handicrafts, newspaper or magazine clippings, or any other variety of re-purposed material. Popcorn, berries, and other treats would be hand strung to create a garland.

The upper classes, however, were able to enjoy more lavishly decorated trees. Glass and crystal ornaments were being produced as quickly as possible and sold in general stores (as well as newfangled department stores). Instead of stringing popcorn, wealthy families could purchase elaborate strings of glass and crystal beads. In the most extravagant of cases stylish ornaments were imported directly from Europe (usually Germany). By the turn of the century more and more store bought decorations were introduced to trees across the country.

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Santa Claus

Perhaps the most important contribution of Victorian society to Christmas traditions is the development of Santa Claus. Many cultures prior to the Victorian time period had a form of Santa Claus; a benevolent, magical being that delivered gifts and well wishes in the night. As would be expected, each country assigned Santa Claus different job descriptions, characteristics, and personality traits. Although the American Santa Claus was introduced to America culture prior to the Victorian time period in the form of poetry (as well as group gatherings to celebrate Saint Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus), he was without form. There was not yet a widely-recognized version of Santa Claus.

Thomas Nast,  celebrated illustrator for “Harper’s Weekly” and the first person to associate donkeys with the democratic party and elephants with the republican party, was the man responsible for creating a nationally accepted Santa Claus. According to a historical editorial about the Civil War, “Nast’s cover art for the January 1863 Harper’s Weekly, “Santa Claus in Camp,” was actually completed by the artist in 1862 and is considered the first modern image of Santa Claus. Until that time, images of Santa Claus varied widely around the world.”

The rosy red cheeks, large belly, and prominent beard were all solidified in the hearts and minds of American children through his artwork, which he centered around Christmas at the end of every year. Nast is also credited with choosing Santa Claus’s home, the North Pole. Developing the image of Santa Claus led to the largest unification of Christmas traditions in the Victorian time period, and continues to unify Christmas celebrators as Santa Claus has become a universally recognized symbol.

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Review: Susanna’s Christmas Wish by Jerry S. Eicher

Susanna's Christmas WishTitle: Susanna’s Christmas Wish
Author:
Jerry S. Eicher
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Genre: Amish Romance, Christmas
Rating: 3.5 Stars


From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. Fans will be delighted by this peek at an Amish Christmas, complete with the romantic wish of Susanna Byler to spend the holidays with the man of her dreams. But who is the man of her dreams? Is it the competent but plain Amish man she married for convenience…or is it her first love-an Englisha man with whom she has recently had an unexpected encounter-and who wants her back in his life? A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.


Review_ (1)Susanna’s Christmas Wish was a quick, cute, Christmas-y read!

The story centers mainly around Susanna’s internal conflicts as she tries to adjust to a new marriage – including her new husband’s strict views on Christmas – and her first love popping into town at the most inconvenient time possible. As she works through her dismay at missing her family’s Christmas gathering she’s also trying to come to terms with being jilted by the man she thought she loved and, as if that isn’t enough, she’s trying to grow her love for her new husband and prove to him that she’s committed. She’s got a lot on her plate.

I really enjoyed the story line and all of the Amish culture sprinkled throughout the book, but it took me a while to warm up to the characters. Susanna came across as a bit weepy and emotional, while Herman initially seemed a bit cold and distant. The polar opposite personalities were a bit jarring and made some of their first interactions a bit odd, but endearing nonetheless. By the end of the story I’d come to enjoy them both though, so maybe that’s a testament to their character growth! Their love was sweet and so pure, and I think Eicher did a great job of capturing the period of adjustment that every newlywed couple goes through, Amish or not.

I don’t read very much Amish fiction, although I know it’s a popular alternative (and sometimes subgenre) to historical fiction. When I picked this novella up I wasn’t familiar with Jerry S. Eicher, but I’ve since come to learn he’s one of the biggest authors in the genre. I got subtle Janette Oke vibes as I was reading and I absolutely love everything I’ve read from her so far. I definitely want to check out some of his other series – and I really hope there are more stories about Susanna and Herman in store!